On Thursday morning, Russian President Vladimir Putin personally oversaw test rocket launches and military exercises. The Kremlin said the exercises were pre-planned and had nothing to do with the elevated tension between Russia and Ukraine.
Bloomberg Businessweek reports:
“Today’s planned exercises will involve all of the armed forces across Russia, including our nuclear containment,” [Putin] said at the Defense Ministry in Moscow, where he watched the drills by video link. The exercises have been planned since November, he said.
Putin watched all the military exercises from inside the military command center at the “Defense Ministry’s headquarters, along with leaders from other ex-Soviet countries – Belarus, Armenia, Tajikstan and Kyrgyzstan – who are now part of the Collective Security Treaty Organization.” RussianForces.org provided a detailed explanation of the military exercises, which included two nuclear submarines that fired ballistic missiles.
Putin’s claims that the exercises were not connected to Ukraine did little to ease the Cold War tensions between Russia and the West. On Wednesday, Putin said Russia troops will pull back from Ukraine’s border; however, NATO and the U.S. found no evidence that any troops left. Putin also surprised the West when he encouraged pro-Russian forces to delay their May 11 referendum. The forces have decided to go ahead with the referendum, and the Kremlin did not release a statement, but only said it was after Kiev announced the anti-terrorist operation would continue.